By Shamzeer Jaleel
Former Fiji, China, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Youth and Germany Head Coach, George Simpkin passed away in New Zealand two days ago.
George started off his career with the Waikato First Division Team which was the National Provincial Championship in New Zealand at that time.
In 1987, he took the Fiji National Sevens side to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals before heading to his coaching stint in Hong Kong.
He was instrumental in bringing the Chinese community in Hong Kong to play rugby.
George returned to Sri Lanka and was part of the organising committee of the Singer Sri Lanka Rugby Sevens and the Junior National Team for tournaments held in Pakistan and Indonesia.
Former Isipathana College, CR and FC, National player and former referee, Dilroy Fernando said: “I remember meeting George for the first time in 1994 after refereeing a match at the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) Ground.”
“George walked up to me and had a quiet chat about the game, during that time George was the National Coach of the Hong Kong Team.”
“George was instrumental in introducing many changes to the game which includes the invention of the kicking tee, and same side taking the re-start kick after a score in the sevens rugby, introduction of ball pickers in sevens rugby to make the game faster.”
“George was one of the pioneers in Rugby Development in Asia and had a big hand in promoting Hong Kong Sevens and also was the man behind the success story of the Singer Sri Lankan Airlines Rugby Sevens Tournament organised by the Kandy Sports Club.”
Meanwhile, former Kingswood College, Police Sports Club player and Navy Sports Club Head Coach, Ronny Ibrahim said: “George had immense knowledge on the game. Sri Lankan administrators during that era failed to take the maximum from him.”
“He was hard working and a good game planner. I was fortunate to be his assistant in 2005 during the Junior Rugby Asiad tour to Pakistan where he was the Head Coach of our Under-19 outfit. The world will miss him.”